Nordin Amrabat feels he can play in the same side as Daryl Janmaat and that they aren’t necessarily competing for the same spot.
The Dutch-born flyers played 25 minutes in the much improved second-half display against Arsenal and 13 minutes again yesterday as Watford sought to up the ante. As long as Walter Mazzarri starts with three at the back, it’s hard to see them featuring together from the outset but using them as a twin-pronged attack down the right later on against tiring defences is a more than handy option.
“We are big friends,” said Amrabat. “We want to play together. We are both from Holland, we speak Dutch and we went to the same school. We played against each other when he was 19 and I was 20. It was a good duel. He’s a nice guy.”
Watford have at least one too many right wing-backs on their books and one will be moved on in January, either on loan or permanently. Juan Zuniga is the one signing the coach was allowed so it won’t be him; the classy Janmaat cost nearly £9m so it won’t be him either, leaving a shoot-out between Amrabat and Brice Dje Djedje. The latter was signed for £4m as the club were getting noises that the deal for Janmaat wouldn’t come off and they didn’t want all their eggs in one basket. Impressively, they managed to resurrect the transfer of Janmaat which then left Amrabat, who was unproven at right wing-back, the vulnerable one. But although he would fetch the bigger transfer fee, Amrabat has now made it virtually impossible for the club to sanction his sale with a series of energetic displays, leaving Dje Djedje facing the unwanted distinction of being moved on without ever playing a competitive game for the club.
“I started slowly [at right wing-back] but I’ve got better and better,” said Amrabat, hitting the nail squarely on the head. “It was difficult but their left wing-back back did nothing today – not one cross and I helped the centre-backs a lot. I know what they expect from me now.”
And the fans know exactly what they are getting from Amrabat: a bucketload of effort and an effervescent shift down the right. Last season you didn’t know whether he was a forward or a winger and you wondered why the Malaga fans were so sad to see him go.
“I feel good,” said Amrabat. “I hope I can get a lot of minutes and play like this. I do my best, and train and work really hard. In a lot of games they can use me more. Sometimes we play too fast to Troy: it’s easy as he’s so strong. It’s a good option to attack but in the last game and today we try and play from behind, from the three centre-backs who find the wing-backs, to Capoue and then Maxi [Pereyra]. We train a lot on tactics and I think the coach does a good job.”
*Additional reporting by David Anderson